"I am very enthusiastic about renewable energy technologies, so my choice to do the Master's in Sustainable Energy Technology was obvious. During my Master's, I gained broad knowledge in the field of energy technology, both on the level of engineering and social sciences. Especially the broad view that goes beyond technical aspects was eye-opening.
My motivation was to use sustainable energy technologies in rural areas to improve livelihood circumstances. I did my internship at an organic farm in a beautiful valley in Ecuador. I helped to design and implement the construction of a micro-hydropower plant of 4 kW. By working in the field, you find that there is much more to it than just making calculations behind your desk. It appeared that the soil contained a lot of huge unmoveable rocks and the sand that was needed for the concrete needed to be shovelled out of the river and transported with donkeys.
Also, the local people with years of working experience have very different ideas about the practical implementation of the construction and while I was there, the weather conditions with extremely heavy rainfall flooded away two weeks of work. Anyway, I stayed motivated because I knew that eventually the potential energy from the water would be converted into electrical energy that provides lighting in the houses of the farmers in the valley.
I graduated at the Department of Technology and Governance for Sustainability (CSTM) at the University of Twente. I had the opportunity to do my graduation research in Kenya at an NGO for sustainable community development services. My study was about the substitution of a traditional fire with an improved cookstove in rural households and I researched what the impact was on fuelwood consumption.
I find it very interesting to search for the differences between cultures, values and ways of living. It is very important to use this information to get an appropriate technology. For example, a cooking device for us only has the function to heat food. But in the hilly areas in Kenya many more functions might be hidden in this device, like heating the room and giving social status to the family. Without the use of local knowledge, local materials and involving local people, a sustainable product will never be developed, let alone be used.
My internship and graduation project gave me valuable experiences and an idea of how it is to work in rural areas with different cultures. It has not deterred me, but rather strengthened me for a career in the development sector. I want to contribute to a society in which all people enjoy the freedom to pursue their own sustainable development."